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Anime & Manga Teh CX Anime Review Thread

Captain X

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Dominion Tank Police
(4 episode OVA)

For a while there, I wasn't entirely sure what age group this OVA was aimed at. The only thing that was clear was that this was meant to be a comedy romp. Initially I thought that this was meant for kids due to the immaturity of the humor and just the way the voice actors were treating it, not to mention how the tank squad commander freaked out when the tank squad had been assigned a "gooyal". Then again there were things like the twin cat girls doing a strip show to distract the police (and it working), giant inflatable penis and ball sack mines, the occasional cuss word, all the fan service, and just all the lame sex jokes in general. Then again there wasn't much cussing, no actual nudity (unless it was artwork) and no one actually died (on screen), so I suppose this actually could've originally been aimed at kids in Japan.

Okay, I suppose I should pause a bit to actually introduce this OVA properly. Really it's just a basic dystopian future sci-fi, which looks like it was inspired quite a bit by Blade Runner. It's set in a city with very organic-looking skyscrapers that is being shrouded by a poisonous bacterial cloud that forces everyone to wear respirators if they go outside (except as it turns out humanity has had to deal with it for long enough that the masks aren't really needed anymore). There are also androids, though it doesn't appear that they only get to live 4 years or that there is any restriction against them living on Earth. The reason there is a tank squad within the police force is that there has simply been so much escalation from the criminal element that it was a controversial way to give the police a definitive advantage. Of course they seem to cause a lot of damage no matter where they go, including tearing up the road the way a real tank with tracks would ... except these are tanks of the future that roll around on big plastic-looking balls.

Cool, so a bunch of police cruising around town in tanks. Sounds awesome, right? The only problem is that this is an over-the-top comedy and not an over-the-top action piece like Black Lagoon. Admittedly, over-the-top action is usually funny, too, but in a different way that doesn't involve giant penis mines (usually). There's also the guy who talks like a medieval monk they all call "chaplain". Why'd I make a point of bringing him up? Because he's annoying and not funny, at all. Actually I'd say that most of the humor fails, either being too immature (coming from a pretty immature guy), or being just plain unfunny. Example: apparently it's supposed to be funny for the police to torture criminals and to mock violating their civil rights to whoever wrote this. They even had Leona Ozaki, the resident "gooyal" dress up in a bunny suit to turn it into a kind of game show for the tank squad on one occasion. Personally, I wasn't amused.

As an aside, I have to admit to some pleasant surprise that Leona was actually dressed the same way as all the male officers (usually), as opposed to the typical stripperiffic "uniforms" that seem to be standard issue in sci-fi in general, let alone in future cop shows like this. Kind of ironic, too, seeing as some of those are actually supposed to be taken seriously, and this show was completely fluff. Of course Leona is still treated like the stereotypical klutzy, initially semi-cowardly, eventually extra gung-ho woman one tends to find in anime comedy cop shows like this, so I suppose it kind of balances out.

Anyway, back to the story, it seems that there's some kind of evil secret plan involving urine and Greenpeace, which sounds hilarious, except that it's about creating a green-haired fairy chick, whose significance is left unknown by the end of the OVA. So basically there isn't a lot of plot, except something secretive about the poisoned atmosphere and their fairy chick.

I'd say that this OVA was decent enough. I honestly don't mind mindless fluff on occasion, though in this case it still wasn't particularly good, it just wasn't horrible. 6/10.

Oh, did I mention that it had a catchy intro theme?
 

prinCZess

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They even had Leona Ozaki, the resident "gooyal" dress up in a bunny suit to turn it into a kind of game show for the tank squad on one occasion. Personally, I wasn't amused.
Heh--I remember the awkwardness this show can induce in anyone who doesn't have a Magnum Force hyper-cop viewpoint on crime & punishment. The easiest way to take it and square away the horror, I think, is as a Japanese version of a 70s-80s US 'supercop' show turned up to 111 as a hidden parody...But it does play it so almost-straight at times it's weirding. There's probably some Japanese social stuff from the era it also plays into, but I don't have much knowing of that...
But the first episode as I recall does have the police commissioner advocating the use of tactical nuclear weapons to fight crime, so...Seems like a necessity to go in for ridiculousness. :p

Most of the draw, I think, is the cityscape drawings and mechanical stuff on the tanks...and early attempts by the Ghost in the Shell dude to get into the topic of androids and technology interacting with or becoming/being humanity...But doing that rather poorly because of slapstick tone everywhere else

And then there's that damned jive-ass, 80s-stereotype, electrico-company-commercial intro.
I love it, and am half-convinced it just hypnotizes people into watching because human minds cannot comprehend the sheer, in-your-face dumbness of the theme just being the same phrases repeated ad nauseum over funk...With the most prominent phrase being the already-silly 'tank police' title of the show.
 

Captain X

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New Dominion Tank Police
(6 episode OVA)

This OVA seems to follow the same basic continuity as the first OVA, though it seems to skip over an awful lot. At first I actually thought that this was just a rehash in the same style as the Burn-Up franchise, where each new incarnation has its own separate continuity even if they are all based on the same source material. I thought this because while the story still took place in the same alien-looking city and both the characters and the tanks looked pretty much the same, there were some slight differences in appearance and characterization. For instance, the android cat girl twins from the first OVA weren't nearly as criminally minded, to the point that they were appalled at the suggestion that they might have killed someone, not to mention that they worked a lot with the police. That's pretty much the opposite of how they were in the first OVA. The poisonous atmosphere also doesn't seem to be as much of an issue, and the storyline with the fat criminal and the green-haired fairy girl from the first OVA seemed to have been dropped. Doing a little reading, though, it turns out that the first OVA was a prequel to the original manga and that this OVA was a sequel to it. That's a little different from most anime I've seen, which is usually just a direct adaptation of its source. Mostly, though, I'm a little disappointed because it seems like a lot went on that I missed out on, such as the resolution of the Greenpeace plot started in the first OVA. Yeah, I could just read the manga, but when it comes to movies and TV shows, I shouldn't really have to read something else separately in order to understand everything that's going on.

Moving on, this OVA seems to be at least somewhat more mature, and it's definitely more serious in tone. There is a much more obvious evil secret plan going on from pretty much the beginning of the OVA, and really overall this OVA comes off more like a typical "buddy cop" show. That's not to say that there isn't still plenty of fluff, but the change in tone is pretty apparent. Speaking of a change in tone, I have to say that I kind of missed the theme song they came up with for the first OVA, which was a lot catchier than the generic guitar riff theme they came up with for this one.

Anyway, what was once just mindless fluff turned fairly serious, unfortunately. While the end goal of the evil secret plan was never really made all that clear, what was made clear was that corporations, especially corporations that make guns, are evil. So, basically the storyline got ruined by the injection of contemporary politics, using the same basic plot and clichés of movies like this that have been being put out since at least the '80s. The whole issue with guns was apparently so important that no one bothered to give the evil corporation an end goal for any of its actions beyond making guns and "expanding." The mayor of the fictional city this all takes place in was also given what amounts to presidential power, as she was somehow able to get a bill passed banning the private sale and production of firearms, which would be kind of pointless if the ban was only for within the city limits, which is as far as an actual city law would go. Of course there's a police tank squad in this city, so it's not like this OVA was really going for realism.

So basically this OVA was a bit worse than the first one. The serious subject matter really dragged it down for me, so I'm going to have to rate this a 4/10.
 

Captain X

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Tank SWAT 01
(single episode OVA)

This OVA seems to be unrelated to the others, aside from sharing some of the same characters. Having read about it, it seems to have a connection to what is essentially a reboot of the Tank Police story. Leona and the twin cat girl Puma sisters are still there, as is the little tank Bonaparte, but here Bonaparte isn't unique and things aren't quite as wild or exaggerated as the other OVAs, at least not in the same way. Instead, this comes off as a pretty typical future police show that at least tries to take itself seriously. I say tries, because at one point there was a fat android using a golf club against the police the same way Sauron used his mace against the men and elves at the beginning of Lord of the Rings.

The visual style has been significantly changed, not only bringing things up to date from the old '80s style the other OVAs had, but by using computer animation. Basically it looks along the lines of the more recent Appleseed movie (not the sequel), with computer models and texturing meant to give it an animated look. Here it doesn't really look very good, probably because they just didn't have the kind of budget Appleseed probably did.

As for the plot, well, there isn't much of one. There seems to be something involving discs that contain the identities of everyone in Japan on them that some evil corporation stole, and the police are sent in to retrieve them. There are some other AI controlled tanks they have to fight and the android somehow sets up a bomb that manages to wrap itself around the neck of the cop who is carrying the discs. Most of the "drama" is derived from whether the android is lying about disarming the bomb or not in exchange for the discs. You can probably guess how this turns out, which is to say that this isn't an angsty show with a downer ending. We never do learn anything of significance, like what company is actually behind all this, or to what end.

As for the characters, this is only one short OVA, and most of it is focused on action, so there isn't much of a chance for any of them to develop past whatever cliché they happen to fit into. One of the more annoying ones was the female cop who had the bomb around her neck, mostly because of how completely useless and pathetic she was. I know some might argue that having a bomb wrapped around her neck might've made her that way, but I just didn't get that feeling from what I saw as I was watching this.

I almost feel like it was a complete waste of time watching this OVA, mostly because not a whole lot happens in its 25 minute length, and there don't appear to be any kind of continuations for it, at least not anything that isn't manga. If you really want to see this as part of your Tank Police experience, well, it's there I guess. Otherwise, it really isn't worth it to bother watching. 2/10.
 

Captain X

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Dragon Half
(2 episode OVA)

Pretty much the entire premise of this OVA is to make fun of anime clichés, particularly those associated with the ones set in a medieval fantasy realm. I haven't seen many of those, mostly because I just have no interest at all in that genre, so I might actually be missing out on more than what I caught. Of course, there's plenty of other stuff to laugh at, including the portrayal of anime fangirls. A stereotype to be sure, but definitely based on something, as I've had the misfortune of witnessing myself. Of course that also makes this OVA a bit annoying, mostly because high-pitched squeals just have a way of annoying the hell out of me.

Visually, it's pretty average, or at least as average as low budget anime goes. Actually one of the things about this OVA is that it bounces back and forth between a more typical visual design, and something more like a super deformed chibi style. It was trying to be so cute that I wasn't sure if I wanted to vomit rainbows in disgust or just laugh at it. Given the context of making fun of cutesy anime, I pretty much just decided to snicker a bit, though to be honest I probably would have anyway if it'd been played straight ... right before I turned it off and tried to forget about it.

Naturally, this OVA also makes fun of fan service, or maybe it just used it as an excuse to have some of its own. It's probably a mix between the two, as there was a little lampshade hanging, but that doesn't stop it from throwing in some animated boobies at the very end. I guess that's a perk of being an OVA instead of something aired on TV. ;)

There actually was a plot hidden in amongst all the fluff, but it really wasn't much of one. What plot there actually is just parodies any anime where a female character has to go on some convoluted quest in order to change herself so she can be desirable to the object of her affection. In this case, there's the kind of long-haired effeminate warrior type you've seen in every anime like this who kind of pulls double duty as a singer/star/celebrity. He's supposed to be a dragon slayer, too, which I guess is supposed to be funny since the main protagonist, Mink, is the title half dragon who he is on a mission to slay. There isn't much in way of plot resolution, though, as the OVA apparently stops short of finishing the manga it was based on.

The characters are actually kind of annoying, but then they're supposed to be. All of them are based off of some stereotype that's showed up in pretty much every show like this and played for comedy. The downside to that is that none of them are particularly interesting. The brainless muscle character Damaramu was probably my favorite out of all of them, though I can't really explain exactly why.

This was a fairly fun OVA overall, and it is mostly just fluff. It isn't the best parody anime I've seen by a long shot, but it isn't bad. I wasn't bored either, and I did find myself chuckling from time to time. I'm not sure if I'd recommend it or not, but if you do decide to watch it, just know going in that you can't expect a whole lot out of it. 6/10.
 

Bear Ribs

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I did love Dragon Half but it was a pitiful adaptation on the Manga, which actually did have the full story and was far deeper than the 2-episode gag reel. Damaramu pretty much gets a new and more ridiculous body every chapter and it's hilarious.
 

Captain X

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Eiken
(2 episode OVA)

I wasn't even sure if I should have bothered with this one, and I could see within about a minute or so that I'd made the wrong choice. Being the glutton for punishment I sometimes am, I decided to finish watching the hour long OVA all the way through, mostly out of morbid curiosity. I'd heard that this OVA was bad, and now I've seen for myself that it is.

I've read that this anime and the manga it's based on are fairly popular in Japan, which makes me giggle a little on the inside. I’d also read that this was horribly panned in the US. At first I was thinking that it might just be an overreaction to the obviously large amount of fan service. Being a pervert, I thought maybe at the very least I'd get some laughs out of it. I didn't. About the only way this show is even remotely funny would be to take clips of it out of context and add some humorous music, you know, just like AMV Hell, where I first saw clips of this show.

This OVA tried really hard to be funny and sexy, but it failed at both. The entire premise is built around boob jokes and panty shots, and while I know this is supposed to be a parody of fan service, it still manages to not be funny. Hell, normally I might just say something along the lines of how a joke done constantly over and over again becomes unfunny, but in this case all the boob jokes and innuendo were never even funny to begin with. As for sexy, same thing. I'll admit right up front to actually liking most fan service, so theoretically I should like something full of it. Of course, it might help if the women being flaunted were even remotely attractive. In fact, I usually found myself grossed out a little. There's not only the impossibly huge breast thing going on, there's also how most of the fan (dis)service also tended to pour out of their stockings and other clothing, rather like a marshmallow being squeezed out of the end of a smore. You're welcome for that mental image, by the way. ;) Disturbingly, I've seen this kind of thing at anime conventions before, when overweight women have cosplayed in costumes not unlike what were in this show. And just to add to the grossness, the chick that wants the main character, Densuke Mifune, so bad that she literally throws herself at him and practically rapes him is his step-sister. While technically not incest, this is still close enough, especially since she constantly refers to him as "brother."

Amazingly enough, there actually was a plot, only it was the stereotypical "guy must win competition to win girl" plot. And the contest was just another excuse for even more fan service, often including the ridiculous, like a waterslide that uses chocolate pudding instead of water. That was about the extent of the plot, though. Pretty much this was just an hour's worth of seeing how many ways Densuke could feel up extremely busty school girls (and his teacher) and how embarrassing all that was supposed to be. Basically situational comedy for pervs.

Needless to say, I recommend that you stay the hell away from this OVA. Even if all you're looking for is fan service, you'd probably be better off just watching some porn. If you think there might be some actual comedy to be had from this, there really isn't. If you decide to watch this anyway, well, I warned you. 0/10.
 

prinCZess

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It's...almost-undoubtedly my juvenile mind from the time, but I actually recall finding Eiken...vaguely funny? Not very funny, but worthy of a few bits of giggle-fits and 'Oh my god, they really did that' moments. I seem to recall the competition/tournament and the announcer in the latter bit the most amusing? There were tentacle-jokes, I'm pretty sure? Bananas-as-analogies? Gag boobs (in both the comedy and sick definition of 'gag' even!)?

But then...It's haunted by its subject matter. There is no way to pretend while watching it that someone, somewhere, isn't actually masturbating to it and it's not 'comedic' or 'parody' enough to actually beat that off (heh). Which just makes watching it feel...extra-bad. Porn-parodies, at least, have the porn as the goal with the veneer of parody. Eiken is the reverse where they were (maybe?) going for parody and just made proto-porn and it's creepy.
I'd be more generous than you were and give it like, a solid '1' out of 100. :p
 

Captain X

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You know, this actually makes me think a little. For all the boob gags, I don't recall any actual nudity. Am I remembering wrong, or has echii and anime and general just gotten that much more risque? I mean, some of the echii I've seen more recently was practically hentai except they didn't show genitals.
 

Captain X

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Elfen Lied
(14 episode series)

This is both a stunning and a disturbing series. Right away audiences should be clued in to the adult nature of the series by the beautiful opening theme that features quite a bit of female nudity, but if it didn't, the opening scenes of Lucy's escape should do the trick, since she’s completely buck-ass nekkid (talk about a full-frontal assault ;) ). So right up front, let's just make clear that this is a graphically violent show that features a lot of blood and guts thanks to some invisible hands literally ripping people apart. Confused? So is this series.

Honestly one of the oddest parts of this series is how it can jump back and forth quite suddenly between what could be a more typical anime along the lines of Cobits, and something that could give you nightmares. This owes in large part to the split personalities of the main focus of the series, Lucy. I'm not sure if she can be considered an out an out-and-out antagonist or a protagonist, all I can say is that Lucy is pretty much just a heartless killer. It's true, as the series goes on and we learn about her past, she actually becomes somewhat sympathetic. Of course that doesn't change the fact that she will kill anyone who happens to get within two meters of her simply for being human. In the first episode, there's actually something of a prolonged set-up just to illustrate this by introducing us to a clumsy assistant who can't even manage to keep a cup of coffee balanced on a tray as she walks down the hall. Unfortunately for her, she happens to literally stumble right into Lucy's path as she makes her bloody escape from the secret installation she's been held prisoner at since she was a child (it’s actually kind of hilarious to a dark-humored bastard such as myself). Lucy doesn't even hesitate to kill the bumbling assistant and then use her headless body as a shield right afterwards. But just as Lucy manages to get out of there, she catches a .50 caliber anti-tank round in the side of the metal helmet that had been on her head and Nyu is born. Huh, must’ve been a hell of a helmet.

Nyu is like a child. Actually she reminded me a lot of Chi from Chobits in that she can basically only say one word over and over and it becomes her name. That and her "innocence" means she doesn't understand the concept of modesty and tends to wander around naked at first, because fan service. Actually I probably would have been annoyed and just stopped watching if not for the fact that Nyu was for all intents and purposes a blood-thirsty killer.

Kohta and Yuka are the first ones to see Nyu/Lucy as she wanders naked up onto the beach. Kohta is pretty much the obvious protagonist of the series opposite Lucy/Nyu. He and Yuka have a history going back to their childhood, and it seems the two of them (especially Yuka towards Kohta) have a thing going for each other. They also happen to be cousins. Yay.

Anyway, Kohta also happens to have a connection to Lucy going back to their childhood, and it has something to do with a day that Kohta has repressed from his memory. Naturally there is a lot of mystery surrounding this and Lucy's origins, which is a part of the appeal of this series.

The characters are all fairly interesting (except Yuka), and I have to say that most of them are pretty messed up, too (including Yuka). The series does so a pretty good job of making the majority of them actually somewhat sympathetic, though, while it plays with a lot of themes involving prejudice, abuse, revenge, regret, and human emotions in general.

For instance, Lucy belongs to a new species called Diclonius, which is made up mostly of females with pink hair and two horns protruding from their temples that have something to do with their other feature – invisible arms that can rip through pretty much anything quicker than a human can blink. All the women also seem to be infertile yet there are constantly new births happening, almost as if a virus is spreading and creating them. This is eventually explained, but I'm getting off track here. The thing about these girls is that soon after they get the use of their invisible arms, they start killing people, usually starting with their parents. However, there is a lot of question there as to whether the Diclonius are simply born horrible killers, or if they are driven to this by how they were treated up until they discovered their abilities. Thanks to the horns, most of them are shown to be mistreated by pretty much everyone they meet. Lucy wound up at an orphanage and was bullied mercilessly, at one point being forced to watch as her bullies beat a puppy she had recently found and started caring for to death with a flower vase.

I really can't say enough about this series. It has an interesting and engaging story, the characters actually have some depth to them, the music did a good job of setting the mood despite being somewhat limited, and the animation is mostly on the good side of average. That's not to say that there aren't some plot holes (most of which get lamp-shaded) and that the series isn't at times seriously messed up. I will say this, though, of the graphic nature of the violence – it's not really much different than what one would find in a Hollywood slasher film, except that the graphic nudity tends to happen at the same time as the graphic violence. My only real disappointment with this series is that it ended the way it did. It's pretty obvious that there was supposed to be a continuing storyline, and a look through the Wiki article confirms this. There are a lot of plot threads left hanging, and while Lucy's fate was left ambiguous, it wasn't that hard to guess who was standing on the other side of the door at the end of the series.


Edit: I've since changed my mind about this series. I originally rated this a 9/10 and recommended it to anyone who could handle the graphic violence and nudity, but after getting more anime under my belt, I guess I'm just not as easily impressed anymore, or at least when I watched it again some time later. I'll be posting a re-review at a later time.
 

Captain X

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Ergo Proxy
(23 episode series)

This is an amazingly well done series. The artwork and soundtrack are beautiful, the story is intriguing, and the characters actually have some depth to them.

Technology as presented here is pretty interesting. Everything is obviously pretty high tech, and yet it all has a kind of art deco look to it that seems to hearken back to the 1920s view of the future, actually kind of mixing modern and past visions of the future. For instance, while there are androids (referred to as AutoReivs), they look nothing like the tin can versions or ridiculously human versions seen in other sci fi. Instead, they manage to look both interesting and creepy, looking more or less human in shape, but with faces that look more like porcelain masks and bodies that seem to resemble canvas. About the only exception to this are AutoReivs that resemble children, like Pino.

Taking place in a post-apocalyptic future, it seems that earth's environment has been devastated, ironically in an attempt to create a clean energy alternative. Most of the story is focused around a domed city called Romdo, which could almost be a city from the TV movie adaptation of Brave New World. People are grown in artificial wombs and programmed to serve a particular function within this artificial, dystopic city. They're also constantly encouraged to spend and buy new things, while throwing out old things. Outside the dome, people eek out an existence off of Romdo's scraps in the desolate landscape while dodging Romdo's many robotic patrols. There were also obviously other domed cities at one point, but they are either empty of human inhabitants or destroyed.

This series has two protagonists who share the focus fairly evenly. The first is a man named Vincent Law. An immigrant from another failed city, he works as an AutoReiv disposal worker. AutoReivs have started getting a computer virus that makes them become self-aware, and the disposal unit basically hunts these down and kills them. Romdo is a very structured place, so people and Auto Reivs that don't fit into their pre-determined place in that society are basically just hunted down and killed. Vincent, though, has something of a mystery surrounding him, and soon after we meet him he ends up being whisked away outside.

The other protagonist is Re-l Mayer, a police officer as best I can tell. In some ways she reminds me a little of Rick Deckard, at least in some aspects. She's investigating a series of murders perpetuated by infected AutoReivs when we meet her, along with her AutoReiv partner, Iggy. She actually hates Romdo and its structured society, though this, at least in part, seems to be out of resentment for her grandfather, who runs the city. Naturally life gets complicated for her soon after we meet her and she meets Vincent. She develops a strange kind of obsession with him, especially after she first encounters what will come to be known as a Proxy.

While there is some sporadic action, if you’re looking for some kind of sci fi action piece here, you'll be disappointed. Instead, the series focuses a lot more on the frame of mind of the protagonists as they are taken through the story. Vincent has a mysterious past that he's determined to remember, and to do this he goes on a long journey into the devastated landscape he finds himself in. Re-l catches up with him and ends up going with him on his journey, along with Pino, who is the only one to be there with him the whole way.

Neither Vincent nor Re-l are perfect, either. Thankfully the series doesn't go too over the top with their flaws, making them feel a bit more real. For instance, Vincent is kind of a wuss, and he also is more than a little into Re-l, to the point he comes off as somewhat creepy. Re-l, on the other hand, is pretty much a selfish bitch who at times can be very difficult to sympathize with. But, like I said, at least they aren't too over the top.

The story could at times get a bit boring, but for the most part it was intriguing, and left me wanting to find out more. The first few episodes in particular drew me in as everything was set up, and they tended to end as cliffhangers. I'd say Ergo Proxy's biggest faults lie with what were basically just filler episodes. Basically Vincent, Re-l, and Pino would come across another dome or habitation of some kind and one or two of them would have some kind of strange adventure. These were somewhat mitigated by what self-discovery was made by the characters involved, and what little additional information we learned about Vincent and his past, as well as about the Proxies (incidentally related, to spoil you a little). The worst offenders, though, were the episodes that broke the fourth wall just to give us some exposition. The book store episode and the game show episode were especially bad that way. And then there was the Disneyland episode, which was more about having Pino have something to do than anything that actually contributed to the story. Basically, when the story was good, things were interesting and occasionally would tug at my heart strings, but when it was bad it was pretty much just boring and seemed more diversionary than anything.

I'm going to do something odd for me and not actually reveal all that much about the story. Instead, I'm just going to encourage you to watch this series. Some may not find it interesting, but if you're into more cerebral sci fi, you just might like this series. 9/10.
 

Captain X

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Gurren Lagann
(27 episode series)

Yet another post-apocalyptic offering, this series is definitely more in the "over-the-top" category, much like Desert Punk. Just as Desert Punk is set in a world that has been devastated and reduced to a desert due to some past cataclysm, depends heavily on over the top humor and action, and isn't really meant to be taken even a little bit seriously, so too is Gurren Lagann. It does have its serious moments, mostly dealing with death, but I never much got into that, I guess, but then that was kind of how I felt about the series at times.

There are actually a lot of things about Gurren Lagann that I normally hate about anime, and actually caused me to stop watching this when it first aired on the Sci Fi Channel (now SyFy). One is the heavy use of mechs. It’s a staple of a lot of anime, about as much as samurai swords and magic-based attacks that require the attacker to loudly announce their attacks in elaborate manners, which this show also does. So, like I said, I pretty much tuned out of this show when it first aired. Based on the advice of my friends, I gave it another try, and it did fair slightly better with me this time, mostly because I realized the things I mentioned above were being done to be funny. Part of me was still annoyed by it, but the other part was just laughing.

I'd have to say that the appeal of this show is pretty much summed up not long into the first episode: kicking logic to the curb and doing the impossible. That's pretty much what the show does, and we even got a catchy theme song out of it. With all the themes of fighting progressively impossible fights and coming out on top in the end, I can see why this show has caught on with quite a few people. It's my understanding that in the UK, there was a poll on the possibility of updating the Union Jack, and the version that won was the addition of the Team Gurren symbol from this show. I actually kind of like the idea myself, to the point of wanting my university to change its sporting name to Team Dai-Gurren, with the symbol as our new mascot.

Then, of course, there's the fan service. Yoko definitely has to be the show's other big draw, what with constantly running around in nothing but a bikini top and short-shorts for the majority of the show. She doesn't play as much of a role as I, personally, wish that she should have had. Mostly she was in a supporting role, and had an unfortunate tendency to have a thing for guys who wind up dead.

Speaking of, I was somewhat surprised when a main character actually died, and only about a third or so into the show. What made it surprising was that this character had been through a lot and lived earlier in the show. But I find I actually liked this aspect of the series, not so much because it was used to occasionally pull at our heartstrings, but because it meant that the show actually did evolve a little, adding new characters and in this case losing at least one of them. It was also used to allow another character to grow and develop.

That tended to get lost in how the show pretty much was just one progressively larger battle after the other. What started out as a battle against one and then a few mecha, here called "gunmen" pretty much just turned into fighting larger and larger versions of these things. At one point there were actually gunmen being used to pilot larger gunmen being used to pilot a gunmen that was literally the size of the moon (and even bigger after that). I personally found that kind of boring, because it was becoming basically the same thing over and over again. So really at its base, it's the humor driving this series.

Some people have complained about the ending, and I won't spoil it too much for you, but I can't say that I see it as a bad ending. I've seen much worse, whether it's that a show simply ends without resolving anything, or that it very quickly and sloppily tries to resolve everything at the last minute (see Blue Gender for an example of that), that's more what I consider to be a bad ending. In this case, the series ends on somewhat of a downer note, but only in the sense that the hero doesn't accept staying on as some great leader figure and seeks life as a wandering homeless man offering small bits of help to strangers while others rebuild the empire, so to speak. I'd actually argue that this makes sense, because this character had tried to be the great leader once, and that didn't work out so great.

Which brings me to the one thing that I really disagree with this show about. At one point there's what I would consider to be a major betrayal, with two of Team Dai-Gurren betraying their leader, conducting a coup, and going as far as sentencing their former friend and leader to death. The show and the betrayed character instantly forgave them, much in the same way Battlestar Galactica did when Commander Adama carried out a coup against his president. I never really understand when a show or the characters in it suggest that such betrayal should be forgiven, but then I don't take betrayal well.

Anyway, while I didn't like this show nearly as much as I did Desert Punk, it was still fairly good. There isn't a whole lot to it, but with shows like this, there doesn't have to be. The characters were likable, and it was funny. It's worth a watch, if nothing else so you can see it and decide for yourself if you like it. You might want to try sticking it out to at least episode 6. 6/10.
 

Bear Ribs

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One thing worth noting about Gurren Lagaan is that it's a bit bipolar because it's effectively divided into four themes, and these conflict with each other. Each is designed to mimic the most influential 'mech show of consecutive eras of anime and show how the mecha anime genre evolved.

The first arc is Mazinger Z/Tranzor Z style where they have one badass robot and it faces a monster of the week each episode. After that they switch to a Macross and Gundam style where there's an army of 'mechs on both sides squaring off with less in the way of superpowers going on and a single mobile base they're deploying from. Character deaths become a thing and provide a major part of motivations while Fanservice is dialed way back. The third arc is the Evangelion Arc where everything sucks, the leaders are manipulating everything, the enemy's an eldritch horror with unknowable motives, and the aforementioned betrayals happen because nobody can be trusted. There's even a dummy plug equivalent with the mass-produced Grapals that were supposed to replace Gunmen. The last arc is the Shin Mazinger era where things return back to the original super-robot genre and rebuild the mecha tropes after Evangelion tore them down.

It's a neat series of shoutouts to history but hard to keep the show on an even keel when it changes mood and genres repeatedly and I think think they nailed it.
 

Captain X

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Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Gurren-hen
(2008 movie)
&
Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Lagann-hen
(2009 movie)

I'm grouping these two together, because really they're just one big compilation movie of the series. Which is basically its biggest fault. I have yet to see a compilation movie that does the series it's compressing into movie length much justice. These two movies come close, but that has mainly to do with the extensive bits of reanimation and how the story has actually been rewritten in a number of areas. However, it still suffers from the bane of compilation movies, and of just movies in general that try to shove a bunch of stuff into a small amount of time – montages. The first movie in particular was guilty of this, having more than one in just the first half-hour of the movie. I understand the motivation behind this – to speed things up – but here is where the rewrites do much better than montages. So much is skipped over that later scenes don't entirely make sense, and in the montages themselves, you have to be familiar with the series to know the significance of what's being seen.

I guess that only really becomes a problem if you see the purpose of a compilation movie as telling the story of a popular series for movie audiences, thus sparing them the time it takes to watch a large number of episodes. I guess it could also be seen as just an alternate take on the story, and given the large number of rewrites that happened to the basic Gurren Lagann story, there is definitely something to that viewpoint. But that kind of goes back to the montages and how they brought the quality of the movie down. Since there was already so much being changed to make everything fit into two movies, why not re-do the story a bit in the beginning to eliminate the need for montages?

As for the alternate take on the story of this series, I can't say that there was anything I either liked or disliked about how the story was changed. In Blue Gender, the redone parts introduced some things that might have improved the series, even if the movie itself sucked. In this case, there was nothing that really stood out that way to me. But then, I was never all that attached or drawn in to the series, either, so someone who is especially attached to the series might feel differently. I think of the two, though, I preferred the series, simply because while the series tended to have some filler, I just prefer the experience of the series making its way through the story to the experience of the movie rushing through it. 7/10.
 

Captain X

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Paprika
(2006 movie)

This was definitely an oddball of a movie. But then since it involved technology intruding into dreams, I guess "weird" is to be expected.

Taking place in the near future, a scientific team has developed a device capable of monitoring and recording a patient's dream. But it doesn't stop there, as apparently at least one psychologist can take on a dream persona and actually help people through their dreams. Again, all well and good until the devices get stolen. From that point on it becomes more of a "science gone mad" movie that I can't help but nit-pick the hell out of, mostly because of the improbability of what the movie ends up suggesting that technology, however new and amazing, can do.

At first it seemed more legitimate, in that some of the head doctors working on the project were losing control of their conscious mind over to a dream, because at this point it was suggested that it happened as a result of having been hooked up to the machine. It still seems plausible there, but where it gets implausible and I lose my willing sense of disbelief is when the movie suggests this device, called the DC Mini, can somehow remotely enter peoples' minds and mess them up. But wait, it gets worse, because later on in the movie, dreams have somehow manifested in the real world. At first I thought this was simply a dream within a dream, but no, the movie tells us that dreams have in fact invaded reality.

The whole dream within a dream thing has been done a lot of times before, usually to either wax poetic about the nature of reality, or to philosophize about the nature of dreams vs. the nature of reality. I'm sure this movie was still trying to do that, but I just didn't quite go along for the wild ride this time. While it would still mess with a person's mind if they kept waking up only to find that they were still dreaming, having dreams somehow magically manifest in reality kind of ruins it. Plus, as you can tell, I've really gotten hung up on this, because what started out as science fiction became fantasy. The story about how a new technology could effect humanity, in this case through the abuse of a megalomaniac (who looks a lot like Patrick Stewart's Professor X), just got lost in a jumble of everyone's dream getting mixed together and marching through Tokyo despite there being no way a device made to have the human subconscious interact with a computer should be able to accomplish this.

Well, it wasn't a horrible movie or anything, it just wasn't very good. My hang-up aside, there wasn't a whole lot that actually happened. I mean, a fat guy got a hot chick (who happened to be his boss) and a cop got over a recurring nightmare, but that's about it. Mostly this movie was just eye candy, showing us something weird and throwing in some fan service here and there for good measure. There was no real depth, though, at least not that I could see.

Pretty much the same thing goes for the characters. Pretty much all of them were bland, and we never really got to learn much about them, other than the shocker that the hot psychologist who is repulsed by the morbidly obese guy is actually in love with him. Well, I guess that was supposed to be shocking, but really it just didn't make a lot of sense because of the part where she was openly disgusted by his appearance and his habits, as most people probably would be, brilliant scientist or not.

Actually the most interesting character in this movie was the detective whose dream we start out in, Detective Konakawa Toshimi. He's also about the only one who goes through any kind of growth, finally getting over his recurring nightmare and his completely unreasonable fear/hatred of movies. And then there's the irony of how he ended up playing out the character he played in a student film, in which he played the part of a detective. Well, the movie explains it a bit better than I do, but there's a connection to his dream and what's going on in his life during the movie.

Anyway, I actually ended up being a bit disappointed with this movie. I was hoping for something that was a bit more straight-up sci-fi and got a flashy fantasy movie instead. As I already said, that's not to say that it's bad, it's just not very good either. I guess if you have a spare hour and a half this might be a good time-waster. 6/10.
 
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